Philly gets $3.3 million for affordable housing plan

affordable housing
Mayor Cherelle Parker accepts a ceremonial check from HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman following a news conference Wednesday, June 26, outside the Janney apartments in Kensington.

Philadelphia is receiving more than than $3 million from the federal government to remove obstacles to affordable housing, and Mayor Cherelle Parker said her administration will release a plan in the fall.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Wednesday awarded Philadelphia a $3.3 million grant from what the White House describes as a “first-of-its-kind” program to identify and remove affordability barriers.

Late last year, the city requested more than $8 million from the Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing, or PRO Housing, initiative. City officials, in a 51-page application, said a lower amount would delay aspects of their proposal.

“They have just gotten Philadelphia started with our planning,” Parker said. “Rest assured, there will be additional buckets of funding because we need state help and we need federal help to make it happen.”

Parker said her administration aims to finish a housing plan in October. She has committed to building or preserving 30,000 units of affordable housing in her first four years in office.

Various municipal departments collaborated on the PRO Housing application, which was submitted in November, prior to Parker’s inauguration.

Officials proposed building upon an earlier study to support unsubsidized, or “naturally occurring,” affordable homes. They also wrote that the funding should be used to examine the impact of climate change – particularly increased flooding and heat – on housing affordability.

Other areas of interest mentioned in the application include analyzing the use of accessory dwelling units and inclusive zoning overlays, which require developers of large projects to set aside some units for low-income residents. ADUs are sections of a residential property that a homeowner can rent out – for example, a garage converted into a living area.

Findings would be used to develop a package of zoning and procedural changes to accelerate the development and preservation of affordable units, according to the application.

More than 175 local governments applied for PRO Housing, and Philadelphia was one of 21 awardees receiving a combined total of $85 million, HUD officials said. Later this year, $100 million will be distributed through a second round of the program.

HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman speaks Wednesday, June 26, at a news conference outside the Janney Apartments in Kensington.JACK TOMCZUK

Parker joined HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman for the announcement Wednesday afternoon outside Janney Apartments, a newly constructed 47-unit building for low-income seniors in Kensington that recently received its certificate of occupancy.

“I’ve been across the country,” Todman said. “I’ve seen families, retirees, just regular folk who are saying the rent is just too high. Some folks just have been disillusioned in terms of ever being a homeowner.”

“Over the last decade, we have not done what we’re supposed to do to simply build more and deal with our aging housing stock,” she added. “We just need more housing, and we need it in every community.”

Parker noted that, since she became mayor in January, President Joe Biden’s administration has sent Philadelphia just over $613 million. More than half of the total was a grant to SEPTA to help replace Market-Frankford Line train cars, and another significant chunk is being devoted to capping a section of the Vine Street Expressway in Chinatown.

‘Housing For All’ is a two-year project in which Metro Philadelphia will investigate the city’s affordable housing crisis. It is made possible by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s Philadelphia Local News Sustainability Initiative grant.